Tag Archives: Cedric Hardwicke

The 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Rope(1948)

Rope 1Rope is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most daring and macabre films. It is best remembered today as the experimental film seemingly shot all in one take.

It wasn’t well received upon release and is considered by many fans and critics to be a weaker Hitchcock film, a view I’ve never gone along with. Although I do concede that many of the actors deliver very theatrical performances, and it does feel as though you’re watching a live stage play at times rather than a film. 

I consider Rope to be one of Hitch’s darkest and most interesting films, as well as being a brilliant character study. The film is also a great example of how to slowly build suspense and tension. I also love the hilarious nods to other Hitchcock actors and films in the scene where Mrs. Atwater, Janet and Rupert, discuss films and actors they adore but can’t remember the names of. 

The film is based upon the 1929 British play of the same name(renamed Rope’s End when the play was performed over in America), which was written by Patrick Hamilton. Actor and writer Hume Cronyn was invited by Hitch to work with him on putting together the treatment for a screen adaptation of Hamilton’s play. Once the treatment was complete, playwright Arthur Laurents was then hired to write the screenplay.  

Rope was a film of firsts. It was produced by Hitch and Sidney Bernstein and was the first feature film to come from their newly formed production company Transatlantic Pictures. Rope would also become the first of Hitch’s films to be shot in colour 

Making the film was a complicated process. Rope was shot in real time with a very small number of edits done in a way  to make the film seem as if it was actually shot in one continuous take. Hitch shot the film a reel at a time, which gave him 10 minute segments of film shot all in one take, which he could then edit together with other reels later to give the impression that all the footage was uninterrupted. Of course it’s more apparent to audiences today where the edits are, but I don’t think it takes anything away from the film that we notice those zooms into peoples backs or objects. It was an interesting experiment and the unbroken takes are impressive. 

During filming parts of the set, along with bits of furniture and props, were moved around during takes in order to make room for the massive Technicolor cameras to be able to move around following the actors, and they were then put back in the correct position when required to be back in shot again. In addition to having to get used to the unbroken takes required on the film, my hat goes off to the actors who also had to stay in character and manage to ignore all of what was going on around them as they performed their scenes. 

Rope 1948

Filming gets underway on the set of Rope. Image source IMDb.

The film mostly takes place in one room of an apartment set. There is a cyclorama of the New York skyline outside the apartment window. This skyline is a highlight of the film, and we see it begin to slowly change as the afternoon light grows dimmer and begins to transition into the darkness of evening. As night falls, many of the windows in the other buildings begin to light up, and the skyline eventually becomes ablaze with neon light. It’s really remarkable to look at, even if the clouds do look rather fake. 

One of the most interesting things about this film is how it strongly implies that Brandon and Philip are a couple.It’s also hinted that Rupert Cadell may have possibly once been in a relationship with Brandon. This element of the film caused the film censors to clutch their pearls and demand that parts of the dialogue be omitted because it made it abundantly clear that Philip and Brandon were gay. Despite the changes to the script it is obvious that these men are a couple. 

                                           Philip and Brandon. Screenshots by me.

It is a credit to both John and Farley that the relationship between their characters is so strongly evident, despite us never seeing them share a kiss, or verbally declare their desire for one another. Interestingly Farley was himself gay and had had a relationship with the film’s screenwriter, Arthur Laurents. 

It’s strange to me how what is in the film as it stands got past the censor at all, because the characters sexuality is staring us right in the face. For example, notice Brandon and Philip’s sexually charged behaviour and body language after they kill David and then share a cigarette and a drink. I also always get a good laugh at the very suggestive way in which Brandon and Philip handle that bottle of champagne as well.

Both the play and the film are inspired by the real life Leopold and Loeb case, which saw nineteen year old Nathan Leopold and eighteen year old Richard Loeb, murder fourteen year old Bobby Franks in 1924. They murdered the boy in order to prove their supposed superior intellects and get away with murder. The film Compulsion(1959) is directly based upon this case. 

Rope begins with a close up of David Kentley(Dick Hogan)being strangled to death by his friends Brandon Shaw(John Dall)and Phillip Morgan(Farley Granger). The murder takes place in Brandon and Philip’s apartment. We later learn the pair have planned and committed this murder in order to prove their supposed superior intellects by committing the “perfect murder” of someone they consider to be a lesser being. 

The sunny opening of the film soon gives way to darkness and horror. Screenshots by me. 

This opening scene of murder is not only shocking and very much in your face, but it also brings to mind this Joseph Cotton speech from Shadow Of A Doubt: “The world is a foul sty. Do you know if you ripped the fronts off houses, you’d find swine?” The opening titles of Rope run over footage of a sunny and idyllic looking residential street where everything seems normal and pleasant. Then the camera slowly pans up the side of a building and into the window of an apartment. Unbeknown to everyone else in the street something horrific is taking place in there.

After killing David, Brandon and Philip then place his body in a big antique chest. A few hours after the murder they go ahead and host a prearranged party at their shared apartment, a party to which David’s father(Cedric Hardwicke); David’s fiance, Janet(Joan Chandler); David’s aunt, Mrs. Atwater(Constance Collier); and mutual friend Kenneth Lawrence(Douglas Dick) have all been invited.David was supposed to attend the party too, so when he doesn’t arrive the others start to worry.

Brandon and Philip lay out a delicious buffet on top of the very same chest in which David’s body lies. This is a sick joke dreamt up by Brandon to ensure the loved ones of the dead man will in effect be collecting food off of his corpse.Also invited to the party is Brandon and Philip’s friend/mentor/former teacher, Rupert Cadell(James Stewart).

Hitch set 7

Hitch talks to his cast on the main apartment set. Image source IMDb.

Rupert knows the pair very well and can read them like books. As the night wears on and there is no sign of David, Rupert starts to become convinced that something is not right.Rupert becomes more convinced of this after Philip grows more and more on edge and nervous as the night goes on. When the other guests leave to go and be with David’s mother and wait for news of him, Rupert sets about uncovering the dark secret his friends are hiding. 

Philip is freaking out because some part of him feels remorse for what he has been a part of. He is also afraid of getting found out and is shocked at how callous and casual Brandon is behaving. What’s worth noting is that it was Philip who actually strangled David, while Brandon held David in place and had the overall plan for his murder and for the disposal of his body. Philip is easily controlled and dominated by Brandon and Philip’s resentment of this fact also plays into his emotional unravelling at the party. It is Philip’s emotional state that really indicates to Rupert that something is going on.

Rope 1948 3

Rupert discovers what Brandon and Philip have done. Image source IMDb.

Later in the film Rupert seems disgusted when he learns how his own words have so influenced Brandon, and he fully disowns what he has said before and is appalled at what Brandon and Philip have done. Some viewers have said they don’t buy that complete change of attitude and heart and that it seems out of character for him to disown what he said he was serious about, but they obviously think Rupert was always as serious as Brandon was about murder whereas I think it’s clear that just isn’t the case at all.

Earlier at the party Rupert greatly amused David’s aunt, Janet and Kenneth, with his funny musings about using murder to solve problems such as getting theatre tickets or booking tables at top restaurants. The conversation quickly takes a darker turn and Mr. Kentley grows distressed by this flippant conservation and has a go at Brandon who seems to really approve of the idea of casual murder whenever someone feels like it. When Mr. Kentley asks him “who decides who is inferior, and therefore a suitable victim for murder?”, Brandon coldly replies “the few who are privileged to commit murder. The few are those men of such intellectual and cultural superiority that they are above the traditional moral concepts.” It’s chilling to listen to.

Although Rupert claims to be serious in what he’s saying when questioned by some of the guests, his tone and the ridiculous scenarios he describes clearly prove that the opposite is true. I think he came up with those views simply as an amusing talking point. If he was truly a psychopath with no regard for human life, like Brandon is, wouldn’t his described scenarios be darker? Wouldn’t he go out and commit murder to put his thoughts into practice? Wouldn’t he help Brandon and Philip get away with their crime rather than turning them in?

It seems to me that Brandon was born with a twisted mind and read too much into what Rupert said and went and built his life around those words and saw himself as being more important than others. Of course Rupert was appalled by that and shocked that his words and silliness clearly had such an impact on Brandon’s psyche. All of this just goes to show the power that words can have, sometimes without the speaker or writer even realising it. 

                                    A few shots from the film. Screenshots by me.

Farley Granger and John Dall are both superb. Farley captures Philip’s easily led personality and his growing distress and rage perfectly. John is calm and collected and perfectly captures Brandon’s coldness and smugness.I think John Dall steals the film and he makes Brandon one of the most effective and memorable of the Hitchcock villains. I especially love how he subtly conveys Brandon becoming over excited,almost like a child desperate for praise from a parent, once Rupert arrives at the party. 

Constance Collier is hilarious as Mrs. Atwater and steals all the scenes she’s in. Cedric Hardwicke is heartbreaking as the worried father desperate to find out where his son is. Edith Evanson is great as Philip and Brandon’s long suffering housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson, I especially love her scenes with James Stewart.

I don’t think that Joan Chandler and Douglas Dick really have as much to do as the rest of the cast, but they try their best with the smaller roles they have and make an impression. I do like their subplot of being brought together again by Brandon’s machinations. 


Kenneth and Janet are reunited. Screenshot by me.

Some think James Stewart is miscast as Rupert. While someone like James Mason or Claude Rains would perhaps have been more suited to the role, I think there would be a real danger of them playing Rupert with an air of malevolence which would have made the character too much of a villain. I like that James Stewart makes the character naive in that he doesn’t think what others could read into what he says. While it’s not one of his best performances I do like him in the role.

While the film does have its weak spots, it really is so much better than the reputation it has received over the years. I also disagree that us knowing Brandon and Philip are killers and seeing what they do with their victims body, takes away any suspense in the film. The suspense lies not in whether or not the pair have killed, but whether or not they will give themselves away to Rupert through their behaviour, or if the body will be found if their housekeeper opens the chest when clearing away the buffet. I love how the tension and suspense builds very slowly in this one. 

Rope is an underrated gem from the master of suspense and the macabre. Don’t forget to RSVP your invitations to Brandon and Philip’s party. See you at the Hitchcock blogathon next weekend. 

The Robert Donat Blogathon: The Winslow Boy (1948)

Not only was Robert Donat one of the finest screen actors of his generation, but I’ll go so far as to say he was also one of the best actors in film history.He does some of his greatest work playing Sir Robert Morton in The Winslow Boy. If you want to see Robert’s subtle scene stealing ability at its peak, then you should look no further than his masterful performance in this gem.   

The Winslow Boy is directed by Anthony Asquith(The Browning Version, Carrington V.C.) and produced by Anatole de Grunwald. The film is based upon the 1946 stage play of the same name by Terence Rattigan(Separate Tables, The Browning Version). Anatole de Grunwald and Terence Rattigan co-wrote the screenplay.

The winslow boy

Both the film and the play are based upon a real life incident from 1908, which concerned a boy called George Archer- Shee and a stolen postal order. The incident and the subsequent trial became front page news and caused a sensation here in Britain. 

George Archer-Shee was a young British Naval cadet from a wealthy Roman Catholic family. He was training at the Royal Naval College at Osborne House on the Isle Of Wight.On the 7th of October, 1908, another cadet called Terence Back received a postal order from a relative costing five shillings. That same afternoon, George Archer-Shee received permission to leave the Naval college grounds and go to a local post office to buy a postal order and a stamp so that he could buy a model train costing 15 shillings and sixpence.

When he returned to the college, Archer-Shee learnt that Terence Back had reported that his postal order had been stolen.The postmistress produced Terence Back’s cashed postal order. She reported only two cadets visited that afternoon and claimed that the cadet who had brought the postal order for 15 shillings and 6 pence was the same one who cashed the five shilling postal order.

George Archer-Shee

The real life Winslow Boy. George Archer-Shee. Image source Wikimedia Commons.

George Archer-Shee strongly protested his innocence but the college found him guilty of theft. When the college wrote to his father informing him of the situation and that his son would be expelled, his father refused to believe his son guilty of the crime.  

George’s elder brother, Martin Archer-Shee, obtained the services of Sir Edward Carson, who was not only one of the best barristers in the country, but was also an MP and the former Solicitor General.

Before he agreed to take on the case, Sir Edward exhaustively questioned George Archer-Shee until he was satisfied that the boy was indeed innocent.

Upon taking on the boy’s defence, it quickly became apparent to Sir Edward that this would not be a straightforward case. Because the boy was a Naval cadet he was excluded from the jurisdiction of the Civil Court. As he was not enlisted in the Royal Navy he was not eligible to face a Court Martial. Sir Edward brought a petition of right against the Crown in order to get the case before the courts. The Archer-Shee case eventually came before the courts on the 26th of July, 1910. 

“A boy 13 years old has been labelled and ticketed for all his future life as a thief and a forger. Gentlemen, I protest against the injustice to a child, without communication with his parents, without his case ever being put, or an opportunity of its ever being put forward by those on his behalf. That little boy from the day that he was first charged, up to this moment, whether in the ordeal of being called in before his Commander and his Captain, or whether under the softer influences of the persuasion of his own loving parents, has never faltered in the statement that he is innocent.” Sir Edward Carson’s opening remarks to the court concerning the Archer-Shee case. 

Sir Edward proved that the grounds on which George Archer-Shee was dismissed from Osborne were unsubstantiated. The postmistress admitted she may have been mistaken in what she had said at the time. She was also unable to identify George Archer-Shee from among the other cadets. On the fourth day of the trial the Solicitor General accepted that the boy was innocent of the crime. The Archer-Shee family received several thousand pounds in compensation from the British Admiralty the following year. While the case had a happy ending tragedy lurked just around the corner. George Archer-Shee served as a lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment during WW1. He was killed at the Battle Of Ypres in 1914. He was just 19 years old. 

The Winslow Boy is a powerful and touching tale of standing up for what is right and just, even if doing so costs you personally. The film is also one of the most moving tales of the unshakable love of a parent for their child. At the heart of the film is the issue of the right of every person to be able to defend themselves and receive a fair trial in a court of law when accused of a crime. In addition to all of this, the film is also a very touching drama about a family risking not only their standing in society, but also their fortune, in order to help their young relative get justice.

The film sticks very close to the facts of the Archer-Shee case but changes several things, such as Ronnie Winslow cashing his postal order to buy an air pistol rather than a model train, as well as changing the names of the key figures involved in the real case and setting the events in 1912, rather than having events take place between 1908 and 1911.

                                           A few screenshots from the film. 

The film also makes the Winslow family much less wealthier than their real life counterparts were. Unlike the play and the 1999 film remake, this film adaptation also takes us inside the courtroom to witness the trial unfolding, a decision which allows us to bear witness to Morton’s great skill as a barrister.

The film presents Ronnie’s elder brother as being more interested in music and having a good time, rather than taking life seriously, when in reality the elder brother wasn’t like that at all. Both the play and the film also present Ronnie Winslow’s elder sister Catherine as being a suffragette and early feminist, and someone to whom Sir Robert Morton takes quite a fancy, when in reality the sister was very different and no hint of romance existed between her and Sir Edward Carson. While these changes may seem strange, they do work wonderfully well for the film, especially the money worries experienced by the family and Catherine’s determination to gain equal footing in life with men.


Ronnie Winslow. Screenshot by me.

Ronnie Winslow(Neil North)is a Naval Cadet at Osborne on the Isle Of Wight. Accused of stealing and cashing the postal order of a fellow cadet, he is found guilty by his commanding officer and expelled from the college. He never relents in protesting his innocence.

Ronnie’s father, Arthur Winslow(Cedric Hardwicke), is riddled with Arthritis and has had to retire from his job as a bank manager. Mr. Winslow doesn’t for one second believe his son to be guilty of the crime he has been accused of, and despite his bad health, he pushes himself to the limit supporting his son and trying to arrange legal help for him. 

He eventually obtains the services of distinguished barrister and MP, Sir Robert Morton(Robert Donat), who agrees to meet Ronnie before deciding whether or not he will take on his case. After subjecting the boy to intense and prolonged questioning, Sir Robert is convinced of his innocence and agrees to defend him. 


Sir Robert and Catherine have a talk. Screenshot by me.

During meetings with the Winslow family an attraction develops between Sir Robert Morton and Ronnie’s elder sister, Catherine(Margaret Leighton).

Sparks fly between the pair and the more they discuss things, the more it becomes clear that they think along similar lines about so much in life.

Some of the best scenes in the film are those between Robert Donat and Margaret Leighton. Both actors are clearly having fun with the verbal sparring that their characters engage in and both do a wonderful job through looks, gestures, vocal tones etc of conveying the unspoken feelings that the pair are starting to develop for one another. 


Sir Robert would much rather read than listen to speeches by the opposition. Screenshot by me.

While the whole cast are all superb, it is Robert Donat who single-handedly steals the show. Although he doesn’t appear in the film for 43 minutes, once he is a part of the film you miss him when he leaves a scene and he has your undivided attention whenever he is on screen.

Whether he’s subtly scene stealing through glances and body language alone, or delivering powerful speeches, Robert Donat utterly commands the screen in this film.

I love how well he captures the soft spoken Robert Morton’s languid, seemingly disinterested and cool exterior, while at the same time showing us the impassioned and decent soul beneath that exterior. I especially love his performance during the scene in Parliament, where another MP says the following while debating the case of the Winslow Boy: 

“Chief criticism against the admiralty appears to centre on the purely legal question of the petition of right brought by Mr. Arthur Winslow and the admiralty’s demurrer thereto. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that in certain cases, private rights may have to be sacrificed for the public good. And moreover His Majesty’s government cannot be and will not be expected to yield to threats and grandiloquent gestures from any source whatsoever.” 


The book scene.Screenshot by me.

All through that speech, Sir Robert is casually sitting on the opposition bench reading a book and seemingly acting disinterested. When the other MP says that rights may have to be sacrificed, Sir Robert looks disgusted, loudly slams shut his book and shoots a withering look at the man speaking and storms out of the House.

I love how Robert Donat acts out that moment and how he makes Sir Robert’s actions so effective. Sir Robert is a man who does everything for a reason and chooses his moments to fight very carefully. A little later on in the film, Sir Robert shows us just what he is made of when he delivers a powerful rebuttal speech in Parliament. Part of that speech is as follows:

” And I believe, with all my heart, that this House will accept my view that there is only one course left open to the government. Namely this. Let them not rest till the attorney general has endorsed Mr. Winslow’s petition with the time honoured phrase, the phrase that has always stirred an Englishman and I hope always will stir him, wherever he may be – in his castle, in his backyard…or in the humblest little public house at the corner of the humblest little street: Let right be done”. 

Let right be done are the four words that this whole film rests upon. Sometimes it can be difficult and costly to do the right thing, but choosing the right way over the wrong or easy way should always be the way we go. Robert Morton incurs the wrath of government for standing up for what is right and refusing to stop supporting Ronnie Winslow.

The Winslow family also sacrifice and suffer a great deal due to protesting Ronnie’s innocence – the elder brother, Dickie(Jack Watling), loses out on his place at Oxford,while Catherine loses her marriage settlement and has her engagement broken off because her fiances father wants nothing to do with her family. Gossip runs rampant as the case is discussed and tried in the court of public opinion, but right is done and the boy receives justice in the end. It was a difficult process but it was all necessary and worth the effort and pain. 


Cedric Hardwicke as Mr. Winslow. Screenshot by me.

Cedric Hardwicke is heartbreaking as Ronnie’s ill father who thinks only of getting justice for his boy. He does such a terrific job of conveying Arthur’s incredible inner strength and also his failing physical health. He and Margaret Leighton have a lovely chemistry together. Margaret is equally superb and I love how she conveys Catherine’s iron will, an inner strength to rival her father’s, as well as her compassionate and gentle nature. 


Father and daughter. Screenshot by me.

Although Arthur is happily married, his relationship with his wife(Marie Lohr) is not really one of true companionship. His only true companion is his daughter. The pair seem to only be able to bear their souls and confide all to each other, rather than to anyone else. They have that kind of special relationship where each can tell instantly when something is wrong with the other. 

Mrs. Winslow, Violet and Dickie Winslow. Screenshots by me. 

Marie Lohr is terrific as the loving and protective Mrs. Winslow. Kathleen Harrison(who had been in the play) is lovable and hilarious as the Winslow’s maid, Violet. Jack Watling does a fine job as Dickie, the eldest Winslow son. Neil North is great as young Ronnie, especially in the scene where he is questioned by Sir Robert and starts to cry. Neil North plays the First Lord Of The Admiralty in the very good 1999 remake, starring Jeremy Northam as Sir Robert. 

The Winslow Boy is not only one of the best screen adaptations of a Terence Rattigan play, but it is also one of the best films of the 1940’s. The film remains extremely relevant for modern audiences given its subject matter. Highly recommended for fans of Robert Donat and Terence Rattigan.